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Public Relations - there's a lot more to it than just publicity

Reprinted from News-To-Use, Vol.6, No.2.
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In 1985, AEG Corp. hired Mason & Madison, a New Haven, CT full service marketing firm, to introduce a new, cordless, power caulking gun selling for $159. M&M did this by implementing a public relations program aimed at editors, writers and sellers to demonstrate the product's benefits. The program included distribution of press kits and sample guns to editors, trade show appearances, developing articles for vertical trade publications and the production of a quarterly newsletter- "AEG Team America" (circulation: 2,500)- aimed primarily at distributors.

According to Business Marketing (January, '91) overall response was impressive: more than 3,500 inquiries in the first six months from editorial coverage and covers on several magazines including Industrial Maintenance and Plant Operation and Engineer's Digest.

Most companies would not be surprised by AEG's story since, traditionally, public relations has been used to gain attention for products and causes. However, public relations also is highly effective in:

• Changing public opinion
• Building customer confidence and trust
• Revitalizing, relaunching and repositioning mature products
• Communicating new benefits of old products
• Promoting new uses for old products
• Building or maintaining interest in a product category
• Cultivating new markets
• Reaching secondary markets
• Extending the reach of advertising
• Reinforcing weak markets
• Telling the product story in greater depth
• Generating sales inquiries
• Defending products at risk
• Tailoring marketing programs to local audiences
• Influencing opinion leaders and much more.

To do this, public relations practitioners utilize a variety of activities designated to complement an existing advertising campaign and increase the credibility of the message.

However, as with any campaign, public relations begins to show results after several months of concentrated effort. The key is patience.

Tom Harris, president of Golin/Harris Communications, predicts public relations will continue to increase in importance throughout the next decade as media costs continue to increase and companies seek to find an effective means of breaking through the information clutter. "Companies that already have a fully integrated marketing program in place will be just that much further ahead of the competition," explained Harris.

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